A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted April 9th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
When I was a young boy growing up in the late 1950s and early 60s in the Niagara, Ontario community of Welland, I would do what other boys sometimes did back in those days – we would grab our toy guns and play war games in nearby Chippawa Park, in the shadow of one of the region’s most moving memorials to those who fought for Canada during the First World War.
None of us probably knew it at the time – certainly I didn’t – but among the names on that memorial, so rightfully designated by the province as a site of historical significance, were those of two brothers from Welland, who fought in the fields of Vimy in France, 100 years ago this April.
The two brothers – Ernest “Ernie” and Richard “Dick Rogers – were both enlisted in the armed forces during the so-called ‘Great War’, leaving a sister, Amelia, and a widowed mother, Annie, worrying about them and praying for their return back home.
On April 4th, 1917, in the fighting leading up to the final climatic Battle of Vimy Ridge that began on April 9th, Ernie was killed in combat and on May 7th, Dick was killed in skirmishes that continued on the same fields following the main battle.
Adding to the tragedy of their story, Dick was one of the soldiers carrying his dying brother on a stretcher after he was cut down on the killing grounds of Vimy all those years ago – this according to a write-up about the brothers, submitted by their great nephew, Wes Murray, to a special issue of Canada’s History (formerly ‘The Beaver’ magazine) out this spring and featuring a cover series of articles and photos on Vimy.
Had we boys known of the story of the Rogers brothers and how profoundly it speaks to the deadly loss and destruction caused by war, and the sorrow left behind for families back home, maybe we would not have been so quick to grab toy guns and play war games around that memorial with their names, along with those of so many others from our hometown, chiselled on it.
Then again, the Roger brothers lost their lives in what was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars,” didn’t they, and we humans are still engaging in war games to this day.
For more on the Rogers brothers, click on – http://greatwaralbum.ca/Great-War-Album/Battle-Fronts/Vimy-Ridge/Rogers-Brothers .
For more on the Memorial in Welland’s Chippawa Park, click on – http://www.welland.library.on.ca/digital/Tour/Memor.htm .
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